7 Surprising Facts About Enlarged Prostate

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Nancy LeBrun on March 2, 2021
  • Senior Caucasian man eating at picnic with friends and smiling
    Be Informed About Enlarged Prostate (BPH)
    An enlarged prostate, or BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), can disrupt a man’s life, sending him to the bathroom to urinate all too frequently or making it hard to empty the bladder. Many men associate BPH with erectile dysfunction or link it to prostate cancer, but what are the facts? Find out what an enlarged prostate really means for a man and what you can do about it.
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    1. The prostate in every man gets larger with age, but not all men will have BPH.
    When boys reach puberty, the prostate grows rapidly and can double in size. The gland begins to grow again around the time a man reaches his mid-twenties and will continue to grow throughout his life. As men continue to age they are more likely to develop urinary symptoms. Of men 80 years of age, about 90% have an enlarged prostate. But overall, less than half of men with an enlarged prostate have bothersome symptoms. Having BPH doesn’t necessarily mean you need treatment unless it affects your quality of life.
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    2. The size of the prostate doesn’t always relate to the severity of BPH symptoms.
    One of the reasons an enlarged prostate causes urinary problems is because it can press on the urethra, the duct that carries urine out of the body. That pressure can also make the bladder tighten and over time reduce its capacity, making urination more difficult or urgent. Everyone’s anatomy is different, though, so a large prostate doesn’t necessarily cause problems. Some men with a large prostate won’t have symptoms, while some men with a smaller-size prostate gland have urinary problems. If BPH bothers you or interferes with your daily life, there is a wide range of treatments available to reduce symptoms.
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    3. In some cases, BPH can lead to complications that need medical attention.
    A urologist, who specializes in conditions of the urinary system, can treat complications of BPH as well as the typical symptoms. Men with enlarged prostates are more prone to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs), often due to urine retention. Retention can also cause bladder stones, which you may pass on your own or may need treatment. Uncommon but more serious complications include kidney damage or, rarely, acute urinary retention, which is when you cannot urinate at all. Acute retention requires prompt medical treatment.
  • View from outside bathroom of man in flannel pants urinating in toilet
    4. An enlarged prostate is not the only condition that will affect your ability to urinate.
    If you’re having problems with urination, such as frequency, urgency, a weak stream, going often at night, or difficulty emptying your bladder, these symptoms are not always due to BPH. Certain medications, kidney disease, bladder problems, or urinary tract infections unrelated to BPH can also be the source of the issue. If you’re having problems with urination, even if you feel you can ‘live with it,’ it’s advisable to contact your doctor to diagnose the underlying cause.
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    5. BPH and erectile dysfunction may not be connected in the way you think.
    Many men worry about erectile dysfunction if they’re diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, but the two aren’t connected. However, some medications for BPH do cause erectile difficulties. If you experience ED and are receiving treatment for an enlarged prostate, talk with your doctor, who can suggest alternative treatments. You may be able to switch medication, or try a noninvasive BPH treatment that can address the symptoms without unwanted side effects.
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    6. Can popular herbal supplements like saw palmetto help an enlarged prostate?
    Saw palmetto is an herb used by men around the world to treat BPH, but when healthcare experts in the U.S. studied whether saw palmetto was useful in treating enlarged prostate, the results showed that the herb has no effect. It won’t hurt you, but it won’t help you either. There are medications and other treatments that do help, so see your doctor if your symptoms are troubling you.
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    7. The relationship among PSA levels, BPH, and prostate cancer may not be what you think.
    PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels measure a protein in your blood. Although PSA fluctuations are normal, a higher than normal PSA can indicate a need for further testing. There can be many reasons for an elevated PSA, such as recent ejaculation, certain medical procedures, a urinary tract infection, or an enlarged prostate. Prostate cancer can also raise your PSA, but there is no relationship between an enlarged prostate and cancer, and having BPH does not mean you are at greater risk for prostate cancer.
7 Surprising Enlarged Prostate Facts | BPH Symptoms & Causes

About The Author

Nancy LeBrun is an Emmy- and Peabody award-winning writer and producer who has been writing about health and wellness for more than five years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
  1. Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/prostate-problems/prostate-enlargement-benign-prostatic-hyperplasia
  2. Enlarged Prostate/Bph. Prostate Conditions Education Council. https://www.prostateconditions.org/about-prostate-conditions/prostate-health-conditions/enlarged-prostate-bph
  3. What is benign prostatic hyperplasia? Urology Care Foundation. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia-(bph)
  4. Saw Palmetto for Prostate Disorders. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0315/p1281.html
  5. Enlarged Prostate (Gland). Cedars-Sinai. https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Enlarged-Prostate-Gland.aspx
  6. Difficulty Passing Urine. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/decision_guide/difficulty-passing-urine

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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 2
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.